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“A song of peace for lands afar and mine…”

Photo by Matthew Huang on Unsplash


Next Monday we honor Memorial Day, a federal holiday set aside to remember the men and women who died while serving in our country’s armed forces.   I cannot help but lift up the beautiful words of Finlandia, which we will sing this Sunday: 
 
“This Is My Song”

Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness,  UM Hymnal, No. 437

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

This Sunday, join us as we lift up prayers not only for our country’s servicemen and women who have died, but all those who have died in the world because of war.  Here is a beautiful prayer, entitled  A Prayer for the World by Amy Petrie Shaw.

Cultivating Balance in This Age of Unrest

Particularly now, in this age of unrest and uncertainty with the endless wave of inhumane executive orders, we can be tempted to give in to  the emotions of fear, rage, and despair.   It is so important to learn how to acknowledge all of our feelings so that we do not react, repress, or succumb to them.   It is so important to learn how to choose our response by cultivating a sense of peace within ourselves. 

We have much to learn from the great spiritual traditions of this season, especially the contemplative practices including prayer, yoga, and seated and walking meditation.  I invite you to join us for our weekly hikes, or get in touch with me about our ongoing prayer group and meditation sessions.  Also stay tuned for more Taize services coming up. 

© Kutt Niinepuu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

There are some who would dismiss these methods as passive,  escapism, and being too inwardly focused. Yet, consider the power of such leaders as Gandhi and Dr. King  who transformed society through peaceful, non violent civil resistance.  Cultivating balance is so important in this age of unrest. 

I’d like to share with you a short video to inspire you in these challenging times to cultivate mindfulness, understanding, clarity, and renewal:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/zen-and-the-art-of-activism_us_58a118b6e4b094a129ec59af?section=us_religion

Blessings upon your week. 

For Oakland: Public Candlelight, Interfaith Prayer & Taize Vigil

cn_oakland_2015-12-24_skylinechrismassservice_0002Skyline Church in Oakland is holding an interfaith candlelight music and prayer vigil on Wednesday night following the deadly warehouse fire in our city.

The public vigil will be held from 7-8 pm at Skyline Church, 12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland CA.

This is a devastating loss to our community and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected, victims, survivors, families, Oakland’s Fire and Police depts., and the Alameda County’s Sheriff’s office. Our prayers remain with the loved ones of the victims and the Oakland arts community.

Voluntary donations will go to support the relief efforts for those impacted by the fire. Taizé Prayer is simply sung prayer, CN_Oakland_2014-04-20_SkylineEasterService Labyrnth in fogconsisting of the repetition of simple chants. The experience of singing these chants can take us to that deep inner place that longs for communion with God. The service is comprised of meditative chanting, Scripture, spoken prayers, and silence.

Leading the event is Rev. Laurie Manning, Pastor of Skyline and Benjamin Mertz, Music director of Skyline.

All are invited to come together to share in God’s loving guidance.

Meditation and Prayer: Introduction

meditation-prayer-introduction-flyer

In Gratitude for Harmony with all People

dreamstimefree_251476I was born and raised in the land of the Wampanaugs in what eventually became known to us as “New England”. On this Thanksgiving, in particular in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and in the face of crushing backlash against refugees, let us remember with gratitude the kindness and hospitality provided by the indigenous people to English refugees seeking a better life.  

Let us pray to be healed from our pride and greed; and above all, our fear of, and violence against, those who are different from us. May we see the Spirit of God within all people. I leave you with a prayer from the Ojibwa people in gratitude for life and for harmony with all people. 

    Blessings, and peace, Pastor Laurie  

                        Ojibwa Prayer

Oh Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds

and whose breath gives life to everyone,

Hear me.

I come to you as one of your many children;

I am weak I am small I need your wisdom and your strength.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever

behold the red and purple sunsets.

Make my hands respect the things you have made,

and make my ears sharp so I may hear your voice.

Make me wise, so that I may understand what you

have taught my people and

The lessons you have hidden in each leaf

and each rock.

I ask for wisdom and strength,

Not to be superior to my brothers, but to be able

to fight my greatest enemy, myself.

Make me ever ready to come before you with

clean hands and a straight eye,

So as life fades away as a fading sunset,

My spirit may come to you without shame.

Photo: © Kmitu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

After the Pope, Now What? Rabbi Michael Lerner Speaks

BP_CA_SkylineChurch_2012-04-08_EasterSunriseService_0057“After the Pope, now what?” How do we repair and preserve our wounded planet?”

Come join your Oakland community in an Interfaith Worship Service for the Climate led by Rabbi Michael Lerner , Cat Zavis, and Rev Laurie Manning; followed by a discussion of the Environmental & Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA) and the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

In the weeks after Pope Francis’s visit to the US in which he called upon leaders to take serious steps to address climate change, and before the November Paris Climate Change summit, interfaith conversations are taking place across the country about how to liberate government from excessive moneyed influence and restore more representative governments to protect and preserve the environment and those who are most vulnerable to environmental degradation. Join us for conversations about what we can do, globally and locally. Learn more about the ESRA, the Global Marshall Plan, and the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

WHEN:

10 am – 11:30 am worship

11:30 – 1 discussion with Rabbi Lerner & Cat Zavis about Environmental & Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA), the Global Marshall Plan, and the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

WHERE:

Skyline United Church of Christ

12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619

510-531-8212

www.skylineucc.org

Skyline UCC’s distinctly beautiful sanctuary will be the setting for prayers, meditation and music giving thanks for our common home, our Earth.  We will renew our collective commitment to address climate change and repair our broken world as a moral issue.

 

Rabbi Michael Lerner is co-chair with Vandana Shiva of the interfaith and secular-humanist welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, editor of Tikkun magazine, and author of 11 books including with Cornel West: Jews and Blacks: A Dialogue on Race, Religion and Culture in America; Jewish Renwal:A Path to Healing and Transformation; The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right; and Embracing Israel/Palestine: A strategy for Middle East peace.

Cat Zavis is the Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) and a collaborative divorce attorney, mediator and trainer in conflict resolution and empathic communication. Her spiritual practices are grounded in the prophetic voices of Judaism. These voices and values infuse her efforts with the NSP to build a movement of love and justice – one that actually embodies these values not only in the goals and outcomes it strives to achieve but also in the movement itself.

Reverend Laurie J. Manning is pastor at Skyline Church UCC.  She holds respective Master’s degrees from Union Theological Seminary (Columbia U), Harvard University, and the University of Michigan. Laurie has also served on the University Religious Council of Churches at UC/Berkeley to foster greater support and understanding of religious differences within the student and faculty body. This position included Christianity in dialogue with other faith traditions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and other faiths. Prior to her ordination, Laurie worked in various management capacities for Hewlett Packard’s Medical Products division, and then as a consultant with high technology and medical clients. Laurie brings a solid understanding of the psychological and organizational complexities of living as a Christian in today’s pluralistic and scientific world.

Skyline Church UCC is a community faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  We acknowledge the worth of all beings. We invite all who wish to enter our Sanctuary and the full life of our church family.  Ours is a God of justice and compassion, and our church lives in covenant with God to do its utmost to pursue justice and compassion, as an Open and Affirming congregation.

Additional information may be found at www.skylineucc.org.

Interfaith Vigils for the Climate & Pope Francis’s Speech to Congress

pope francis and st francisSeptember 23, 2015:

Two Interfaith Vigils for the Climate & for Pope Francis’ Speech to Congress

As Pope Francis prepares to speak to the US Congress on September 24 about climate change, interfaith vigils are being held across the country. Skyline United Church of Christ, joined by members of other East Bay congregations concerned about the climate crisis, will host two interfaith prayer services for the climate – one in the morning and one in the evening.

WHEN:   SUNRISE at 6:30 a.m. &  SUNSET at 6:30 p.m (duration approx 45 min each)

WHERE:

Skyline United Church of ChristLabyrinth

12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619

510-531-8212

skyineucc.org

Skyline UCC’s distinctively beautiful sanctuary will be the setting for prayers, meditation and music giving thanks for our common home, the Earth; and renewing our collective commitment to addressing climate change and repairing our broken world as a moral issue.

This vigil is being planned by California Interfaith Power & Light’s new Alameda County Interfaith Working Group.

Interfaith Climate Action Network Contra Costa LogoAlameda County Interfaith Working Group started in June this year. Different faith traditions gathered to form an East Bay California Interfaith Power and Light Working Group.  In July and August the team hosted, at different houses of worship in Alameda County, an interfaith study group of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change.

 

Skyline Church UCC is a community faithful to the teachings of BP_CA_SkylineChurch_2012-04-08_EasterSunriseService_0057Jesus Christ. We acknowledge the worth of all beings. We invite all who wish to enter our Sanctuary and the full life of our church family. Ours is a God of justice and compassion, and our church lives in covenant with God to do its utmost to pursue justice and compassion, as an Open and Affirming congregation.

Additional information may be found at www.skylineucc.org, http://interfaithpower.org/get-involved-3/alameda-interfaith-climate-action-network-east-bay-working-group/, and http://interfaithpower.org/.

Because bus service is limited, if you can offer, or need a ride, contact Heather MacLeod  510-459-3452   macleodphd@gmail.com.

The Immigrant, The Undocumented, The Worker

Thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate good weather, good food, and great company, last Sunday at our picnic potluck celebration. Special thanks to Marilyn Shaw for her leadership!

There’s something so beautiful, so biblical, so communal about sharing our food together, when we share so much more than just food together. We exchange recipes, and stories, we sit outside and behold the beauty of the earth, and appreciate the preciousness of springtime, we’re inspired to laugh and play, like children do. We share our common lives and our humanity.

Unlike the rest of the world’s democracies the United States doesn’t celebrate May Day as an official national holiday.

But outside the U.S., May 1 is International Workers’ Day, observed with speeches, rallies and demonstrations. This year, millions of workers in Europe, Asia and Latin America will be taking to the streets to demand higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. In Bangladesh, for example, protestors will be in the streets to demand that global companies like Walmart improve safety standards in local sweatshops.

Here in San Francisco and Oakland the local chapter of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has vowed to shut down the two ports this Friday, May 1, to protest police brutality.

May we each find ways to expand the vision of breaking bread together and to create a society in which the basic human rights of all workers, locally and globally, are honored for they are our sisters and brothers. 

I’d like to share with you a prayer in honor of all Immigrants:

 

A PRAYER FOR IMMIGRANTS

By Jessica Vazquez Torres

Source of Life who is known by many names;

Over-turner and illuminator of hearts; 

We gather with gratitude for the earth and all who journey in it.

We are give thanks for the interconnectedness of all creation.

Support for those without support;

Stronghold of those without protection; 

We declare openly the times we have fallen short

From living out the call to justice our sacred stories place upon us;

From recognizing the whole of creation as an extension of our being;

From hearing the plight of the creation yearning for justice;

From seeing the harm our way of life and our policies inflict upon the creation

Jesus, carpenter of Nazareth, asks: What is the greatest commandment?

To love your creator;

To love your neighbor;

To undermine oppressive powers with life-giving actions;

To be in solidarity with all who suffer;

To act for justice;

And to teach others to act for justice

Let us not forget.

Source of Justice who is known by many names; 

Let us not swerve from the path of righteousness that leads to just and equitable relationship.

Open our eyes that we may see the immigrant and undocumented; 

Whose labor enables and sustains our living;

The farm worker, the hotel maid, the line cook, the childcare provider; the healthcare worker;

Give us the courage to stand with those crossing our borders;

Escaping economic oppression and political persecution;

Seeking work to support their families;

Aspiring to participate in the bounty of the creation;

Give us the strength to confront the prejudice and intolerance of those who are fearful; 

And respond by closing our borders to those who sojourn seeking life and opportunity;

Give us the will to leave behind the safety of our sanctuaries and temples; 

And claim our place in the movement to transform the creation;

That our voice, our heart, our spirit will join the voice, heart and spirit of all who

demand to live with respect, justice and peace.

Source of Direction who is known by many names;

In our daily living let us be guided; 

By the highest estimate of the worth and dignity of every person regardless of their legal status;

And let us not forget;

That the creation is founded on justice;

And that we have the moral responsibility to bring forth justice into these times.

Amen.

 

Light in the Darkness

CN_Skyline_2010-12-24_ChristmasEveService_1014Blessings to you in this season of darkness, where we light candles and are reminded once more:

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Yes, we live in a broken world.

 At the same time, through us all I experience the in -breaking of God’s love right here in our community.  I experience it in the wonder of children taking part in our Christmas pageant. I experience it in the outpouring of love from this community to the homeless shelter in East Oakland; to feeding the hungry here in Alameda County; to supporting the education of 400 children of Makomray, Sierra Leone; and to caring for the immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

We experience it when we see the face of Christ, in everyone!

Come and celebrate the wonder of God’s love on Christmas Eve with us, Wed Dec 24th at 7 pm!

Bring your friends! We have childcare! It’s a short – all ages friendly service!

I wish to share a photo of a mom and dad with their three month old son, Air; one of the many EOCP Gift Familyfamilies with children that we visited earlier this week.  His parents named him Air because he is as precious as every breath we take and is filled with the Spirit of life. I cannot help but be reminded of that Holy family thousands of years ago who sought shelter as refugees, who’s precious child was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. (The family gave me permission to share with friends and members of Skyline)

I leave you with this poem by Howard Thurman about the ongoing healing of the world that we are called to bring forth in our lives.

Candles for Christmas

I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
Blessings,
Pastor Laurie

God’s Time

Gods_ClockAdvent begins. A season where, in  patience, we dwell in God’s time; that is to say, the time beyond this world, this solar system, this galaxy, this universe, beyond all imagining.

There we find peace that passes all understanding. In Hinduism, patience is one of the thousand names of God.

When I say God I don’t mean an old white man with a beard up in the sky. I mean something ultimate and mysterious that defies definition and description, but which represents the deepest and truest and holiest things we know or dream or wish for. In that sense and that spirit I’d like to offer  a prayer by a man named Ted Loder, a prayer of waiting:

O God of all seasons and senses,
Grant me your sense of timing
To submit gracefully
And rejoice quietly
In the turn of the seasons.
In this season of short days and long nights,
Of grey and white and cold,
Teach me the lessons of waiting:
Of the snow joining the mystery
Of the hunkered-down seeds
Growing in their sleep
Watched over by gnarled-limbed, grandparent trees
Resting from autumn’s staggering energy;
Of the silent, whirling earth
Circling to race back home to the sun.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,sun and snow
Of grey and white and cold,
Teach me the lessons of endings:
Children growing,
Friends leaving,
Jobs concluding,
Stages finishing,
Grieving over,
Grudges over,
Blaming over,
Excuses over.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
Of grey and white and cold,
Teach me the lessons of beginnings:
That such waitings and endings
May be a starting place,
A planting of seeds
Which bring to birth
What is ready to be born—
Something right and just and different,
A new song,
A deeper relationship,
A fuller love—
In the fullness of your time.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.

Blessings, Pastor Laurie